In open space–starved Greenpoint, every inch of parkland counts. So when locals learned that the state is closing Sgt. William Dougherty Park for at least four years while the Kosciuszko Bridge gets an overhaul, they started a hunt for a replacement oasis.
The state will start construction this fall on the bridge, which carries Brooklyn-Queens Expressway commuters over Newtown Creek from Greenpoint to Queens. State engineers say that their plan to replace the entire bridge will take until 2017. During construction, the Brooklyn side of the bridge is slated to become a way station for construction gear, something that has residents and lawmakers clamoring for other options.
“Any time a park closes up, it’s a big deal, because we are so lacking in green space,” said Greenpoint resident Laura Risi Hofmann.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg) has taken note. The Brooklyn lawmaker sent a letter to the state this week, urging fellow legislators to fork over a chunk of the $517 million in federal funding allotted to the bridge replacement — so that the neighborhood can at least get some new greenery for its trouble.
“Not only will the Kosciuszko Bridge construction serve as a long-term inconvenience for the community, it will strangle the already inadequate amount of public space available to the neighborhood,” Lentol said.
Dougherty is a compact park at the corner of Cherry Street and Vandervoort Avenue, in the shadow of the expressway. The park mostly consists of basketball courts and a playground and, though it is not the leafiest, it is still an asset neighbors say they are not eager to trade for cranes, dump trucks, and traffic jams.
The state said it has received the letter, but it has yet to make a decision.
Neighbors, meanwhile, have already started suggesting places to put a new park. Activist Holly Fairall has drafted a proposal asking the city to look at a five-acre plot on Kingsland Avenue between Greenpoint and Norman avenues. The lot is home to a vacant warehouse and a swath of scrubby land but Fairall wants to see it spruced up with an indoor basketball court, a skateboard park, a meditation garden, and a grab bag of other amenities.
“It’s very speculative, but I want to at least get it out there,” Fairall said.